Measure to give final check-off to staff for projects causes stir
Apr 10, 2014 | 1902 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An ordinance being considered by the Patterson City Council to give final check-off authority on business projects to city staff, bypassing the council, caused a heated debate at a special City Council meeting Tuesday, April 8.

The measure is being rammed through by staff because they say another large corporate distribution center is looking at Patterson with tight deadlines, according to City Manager Rod Butler. The city planning commission gave its stamp of approval on the measure just one day earlier on Monday, April 7 at a special planning commission meeting.

The latest mystery project, one of several rumored to be in the works, would be a 1.5 million square foot facility in the West Patterson Business Park.

Council members, staff and the public debated the merits of the ordinance for more than an hour before passing the measure 4 to 1.

Mayor Luis Molina, Councilwoman Deborah Novelli, Councilman Dominic Farinha and Councilman Larry Buehner all voted in favor of the ordinance. Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten was the lone dissenter. The measure will face one final hurdle Tuesday, April 15 at the regular city council meeting.

Specifically the ordinance would give the power to the city manager in conjunction with the city engineer and fire chief to perform a final sign off on final parcel project maps. A finalized map currently must be approved by the city council, which occurs generally on a consent agenda with little discussion, according to officials. Approval of a final map, which must be substantially the same as the earlier tentative map, must be approved either by staff or council by state law.

“By delegating this power to city officials, the city can create greater flexibility to expedite final map application reviews,” a staff report to the council, authored by City Planner Joel Andrews and signed by Butler, read. “As the city grows, final map approvals will become more tedious for the city council to review.”

Andrews stated in the meeting that most cities have already initiated similar plans, while Patterson lags behind, causing unneeded further delays as a project has to wait until the next city council meeting to go through the formality.

Lustgarten didn’t agree saying the added level of bureaucracy was needed as oversight and she didn’t feel comfortable ceding to the staff when errors have been made in the past on development agreements.

Councilman Larry Buehner said the city needed the streamlined approval process to gain more jobs, business and revenue to the city.

“I support jobs coming to town,” Lustgarten said. “But we’re just talking about a couple of days here.”

Novelli jumped in stating the item had nothing to do with development agreements or past mistakes.

“Most of these are brought up on the consent agenda,” Novelli said. “Once it gains the signatures, we can’t legally disagree with it.”

Novelli noted the city could get sued if a map is found to be substantially the same as a tentative map, signed off by staff and not approved by the council.

Farinha said while he supported the principal of streamlining the process of approval for business projects, he wasn’t comfortable with the speed with which the ordinance was moving and stated the meeting had originally been dedicated to interview firms for a downtown development project, taking time from those firms.

Max Garcia of GDR Engineering working on the mystery project said he brought a similar proposal to city staff three years ago but was met with some resistance because the city didn’t have a a staff engineer at the time. The city hired Ken Irwin as city engineer in late 2012.

Nick Rappley can be reached at nick@pattersonirrigator.com or 209-568-9975.
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